THREATENED: The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered

The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: The Century and Consumers Buildings, 202 S. State Street & 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Kaufmann & Fabry Co., State Street, 200-298 S. Folder 1177, Sheet 18, CPC_04_D_1177_018, Chicago – Photographic Images of Change, University of Illinois at Chicago. Library. Special Collections Department
The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago

 

The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky / Esto
The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky / Esto
Century Builsing Cornice. The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky / Esto
The Century and Consumers Buildings, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo Credit: Preservation Chicago Historic Postcard Collection

Century & Consumers Buildings

The Century Building

Address: 202 S. State Street

Architects: Holabird and Roche

Date: 1915

The Consumers Building

Address: 220 S. State Street

Architects: Jenney, Mundie & Jensen

Date: 1913

Neighborhood: Loop

Style: Chicago School Skyscrapers

Overview

Two of State Street’s terra cotta-clad skyscrapers, known as the Century and Consumers Buildings, remain in danger of demolition, threatening the visual character of this prominent block of the South Loop.

Comprised of two structures representing the last of the tall buildings of the Chicago School of Architecture, these steel-frame early skyscraper buildings are part of a special group of structures which placed Chicago on the world stage of architectural and engineering achievements. Their potential loss and proposed demolition, would adversely impact the visual character of State Street, the Loop Retail National Register District, and would be considered by some to be an act of cultural, architectural and urban vandalism to destroy in the 21st century.

Preservation Chicago has long been concerned about the deferred maintenance, vacancy and deteriorating condition of the Century and Consumers Buildings, fronting State Street, Adams Street and Quincy Court, in the heart of the Chicago Loop and Central Business District. These buildings, owned for 17 years by the General Services Administration (GSA), the real estate arm of the Federal Government, continue to languish, despite being spotlighted on our “Chicago 7 Most Endangered List” multiple times.

These two early 20th-century skyscraper structures were included as a Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2012, 2013, 2022, 2023. And now for a fifth time in 2023, both have again been selected due to a significant threat of demolition.

Preservation Chicago learned that in 2022, a $52 million expenditure had been earmarked in the Federal Infrastructure Appropriations Bill, in Congress, specifically for the demolition of the Century and Consumers Buildings. It appears that the decades-long advocacy efforts to save these significant buildings is once again reaching a critical stage. In 2022, Preservation Chicago had two meetings with the GSA, Federal officials and parties interested in a reuse vision for the structures. During those meetings, alternative plans were discussed. However, in late 2022, it was announced that Federal Section 106 Hearings would take place to determine a plan of action. All along Preservation Chicago has been there to encourage new fresh ideas and a vision for these remarkable structures of the Chicago School of Architecture.

These two remarkable buildings, the 16-story Century Building by Holabird & Roche (1915) and the 22-story Consumers Building by Jenney, Mundie & Jensen (1913), were once principally occupied by small businesses, attorney offices and showrooms. These types of multi-use structures along State Street and Wabash Avenue, with small stores located on their upper floors were also referred to as “shops buildings.”

Due to the close proximity of the courthouse and courtrooms, the Federal Government and the General Services Administration (GSA), exercised its power of eminent domain in 2005-2007, to take control of these State Street buildings based on increased security concerns following the events of September 11, 2001. Since that acquisition by the GSA, the buildings have been stable but slowly deteriorating due to deferred maintenance and prolonged vacancy.

Security concerns and a reduction in required office space in the Loop appeared to have halted the GSA’s initial plans for renovation and reuse. In 2017 after an extensive advocacy effort by Preservation Chicago, the City of Chicago issued a Request For Proposals for the adaptive reuse of the Century and Consumers Buildings. Preservation Chicago was delighted by the City of Chicago’s selection of CA Ventures in partnership with Cedar Street Companies. Their $141 million renovation proposal planned for a preservation-sensitive adaptive reuse of the four-building cluster, with the two terra cotta office towers as residential apartments and the two adjacent low-rise buildings as State Street retail with a tower above. Despite a strong developer team submitting a solid adaptive reuse for a residential plan, it was halted by a federal judge citing security concerns due to the proximity of the rooftop deck and rear windows to the courthouse.

Widely considered to be an impossible challenge to solve, Preservation Chicago redoubled its efforts to identify an adaptive reuse that could accommodate the rigorous courthouse security requirements. Eventually, we arrived at a highly unusual solution, a collaborative national archive center to be known as the “Chicago Collaborative Archive Center.”

At first, the notion of repurposing two tall, slender Chicago School skyscrapers into an archive center seemed unique and perhaps even improbable. In fact, this creative solution has many strengths and is very achievable. Recognizing the growing urgency to repurpose these buildings, Preservation Chicago has been working diligently over the past two years to build a strong coalition of critical stakeholders. There is now strong interest, support and enthusiasm for this adaptive reuse project. This coalition of partners has already engaged architects and engineers long before news broke of the $52 million demolition congressional earmark in February 2022.

Since that time, a Public Scoping Meeting, public hearings, and two charettes have been held, along with approximately ten Federal Section 106 Hearings have occurred. At all of the meetings, there has been no public support for demolition, but only preservation and reuse of the historic structures. In addition there have been intense public interest in the buildings, representing the most public support that Preservation Chicago has witnessed in our 22 years of advocacy. The buildings were featured in a story by “The B1M” of London, capturing 1.4 million views, and their very first story on Chicago. In addition, a Change.org petition has garnered over 24,500 petition signatures encouraging preservation and a reuse plan from not only Chicago residents, but individuals across the nation and world.

Lastly, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks with the support of the Department of Planning and Development-Historic Preservation Division at the City of Chicago voted to approve the Chicago Landmark Designation for The Century and Consumers Buildings. We are hopeful that this process will one day result in a full Chicago Landmark Designation of the Century and Consumers Buildings approved by the Chicago City Council. We are hopeful that the GSA-General Services Administration will also support the Chicago Landmark Designation of The Century and Consumers Buildings.

Read the full story at Preservation Chicago’s website

Century & Consumers Buildings, a Preservation Chicago 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered Chapter

 

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